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Table of Contents > Herbs > German Chamomile
German Chamomile
Botanical Name:  Matricaria recutita
 
Overview
Plant Description
What's It Made Of?
Available Forms
How to Take It
Precautions
Possible Interactions
Supporting Research

Overview

There are two plants known as chamomile: the more popular German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) and Roman, or English, chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile). Both belong to the Asteraceae family, which also includes ragweed, echinacea, and feverfew. And both have been used traditionally to calm frayed nerves, to treat various digestive disorders, to relieve muscle spasms, and to treat a range of skin conditions and mild infections. The medicinal use of chamomile dates back thousands of years to the ancient Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks. Chamomile has been used to treat a variety of conditions including chest colds, sore throats, abscesses, gum inflammation (gingivitis), psoriasis, acne, eczema, psoriasis, minor first degree burns, inflammatory bowel disease (namely, ulcerative colitis), stomach ulcers, and children's conditions such as chickenpox, diaper rash, and colic. While studies in people are few, animal studies have demonstrated German chamomile's ability to reduce inflammation, speed wound healing, reduce muscle spasms, and to serve as a mild sedative to help with sleep. Laboratory studies have also shown some antimicrobial properties, meaning that it may fight against a variety of infections. In Europe, chamomile is commonly used as a digestive aid, to treat mild skin conditions, menstrual cramps, insomnia, and as a tension reliever.


Plant Description

The tiny daisy-like flowers of German chamomile have white collars circling raised, cone-shaped, yellow centers and are less than an inch wide, growing on long, thin, light green stems. Sometimes chamomile grows wild and close to the ground, but you can also find it bordering herb gardens. It can reach up to three feet high. German chamomile is closely related to Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile), which, although less commonly used, has many of the same medicinal properties.


What's It Made Of?

The dried flowers can be used to make chamomile tea. The flowers can also be crushed and steamed so that the oil they contain, which is blue, can be extracted and packaged separately. The oil contains ingredients that reduce swelling and limit the growth of bacteria, viruses, and fungi.


Available Forms

German chamomile is available as dried flower heads, tea, liquid extract, and topical ointment.


How to Take It

Pediatric

To relieve spasms or inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract: 1 to 2 ml (30 to 60 drops) of German chamomile liquid extract, undiluted or mixed in juice or water, three times daily.

Adult

  • Tea: Pour 1 cup of boiling water over 1 heaping tablespoons of dried herb, steep 10 to 15 minutes. Drink three to four times per day between meals to relieve stomach pain, heartburn, gas, and other digestive discomforts. Tea may also help bring on drowsiness for those having trouble sleeping.
  • Tincture (1:5, 45% alcohol): Take 100 to 150 drops of tincture three times per day for gastrointestinal complaints or to aid in falling asleep.
  • Gargle or mouthwash: Make a tea as above, then let it cool. Gargle as often as desired to soothe inflamed gums, sores in the mouth, or sore throat.
  • Inhalation: Add a few drops of essential oil of chamomile to hot water (or use tea) and inhale the steam to calm a cough.
  • Bath: Use 1/4 lb of dried flowers per bath, or add 5 to 10 drops of essential oil to a full tub of water to soothe hemorrhoids, cuts, eczema, or insect bites.
  • Poultice: Make a paste by mixing powdered herb with water and apply to inflamed skin.
  • Cream: Apply cream with a 3% to 10% crude drug chamomile content for psoriasis, eczema, or dry and flaky skin.

Precautions

The use of herbs is a time-honored approach to strengthening the body and treating disease. Herbs, however, contain active substances that can trigger side effects and interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For these reasons, herbs should be taken with care, under the supervision of a practitioner knowledgeable in the field of botanical medicine.

German chamomile is considered generally safe by the FDA. Highly concentrated chamomile tea may cause vomiting, however, and those who are allergic to ragweed, chrysanthemums, asters or feverfew should avoid chamomile because it is in the same plant family. Allergic reactions are somewhat common, actually, and may include stomach cramps, tongue thickness, swollen lips and eyes (called angioedema), conjunctivitis (pink eye), itching, hives, throat tightness, and even shortness of breath. The latter two symptoms are medical emergencies (called anaphylaxis) and medical care should be sought urgently.


Possible Interactions

If you are currently being treated with any of the following medications, you should not use German chamomile without first talking to your healthcare provider.

Sedatives
Because of its calming effects, chamomile probably should not be taken in conjunction with sedative medications (particularly those that belong to a class called benzodiazepines such as alprazolam and lorazepam) or alcohol.

Warfarin
Patients taking blood-thinning medications such as warfarin should use German chamomile only under the careful supervision of a healthcare practitioner. Although not proven scientifically, this herb, in theory, may enhance the effects of the medication.


Supporting Research

Al-Hindawi MK, Al-Deen IH, Nabi MH, Ismail MA. Anti-inflammatory activity of some Iraqi plants using intact rats. J Ethnopharmacol. 1989;26(2):163-168.

Ali-Shtayeh MS, Yaniv Z, Mahajna J. Ethnobotanical survey in the Palestinian area: a classification of the healing potential of medicinal plants. J Ethnopharmacol 2000;73(1-2):221-232.

Avallone R, Zanoli P, Puia G, Kleinschnitz M, Schreier P, Baraldi M. Pharmacological profile of apigenin, a flavonoid isolated from Matricaria chamomilla. Biochem Pharmacol. 2000;59(11):1387-1394.

Blumenthal M, Goldberg A, Brinckmann J. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs. Newton, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications; 2000:57-61.

Cauffield JS, Forbes HJM. Dietary supplements used in the treatment of depression, anxiety, and sleep disorders. Lippincott's Primary Care Practice. 1999;3(3):290-304.

de Jong NW, Vermeulen AM, Gerth van Wijk R, de Groot H. Occupational allergy caused by flowers. Allergy. 1998;53(2):204-209.

de la Torre Morin F, Sanchez Machin I, Garcia Robaina JC, Fernandez-Caldas E, Sanchez Trivino M. Clinical cross-reactivity between Artemisia vulgaris and Matricaria chamomilla (chamomile). J Investig Allergol Clin Immunol. 2001;11(2):118-122.

Ernst E, ed. The Desktop Guide to Complementary and Alternative Medicine: An Evidence-Based Approach. New York, NY: Mosby;2001:110-112.

Foster S, Tyler VE. Tyler's Honest Herbal. New York, NY: The Haworth Herbal Press; 1999:105-108, 399.

Foti C, Nettis E, Panebianco R, Cassano N, Diaferio A, Pia DP. Contact urticaria from Matricaria chamomilla. Contact Dermatitis. 2000;42(6):360-361.

Gyllenhaal C. Efficacy and safety of herbal stimulants and sedatives in sleep disorders. Sleep Med Rev. 2000;4(2).

Heck AM, DeWitt BA, Lukes AL. Potential interactions between alternative therapies and warfarin. Am J Health Syst Pharm. 2000;57(13):1221-1227.

Khayyal MT, el-Ghazaly MA, Kenawy SA, et al. Antiulcerogenic effect of some gastrointestinally acting plant extracts and their combination. Arzneimittelforschung 2001;51(7):545-553.

Miller L. Herbal medicinals: selected clinical considerations focusing on known or potential drug-herb interactions. Arch Intern Med. 1998;158(20):2200-2211.

Newall CA, Anderson LA, Phillipson JD. Herbal Medicines: A Guide for Health Care Professionals. London, England: The Pharmaceutical Press; 1996.

O'Hara M, Kiefer D, Farrell K, Kemper K. A review of 12 commonly used medicinal herbs. Arch Fam Med. 1998:7(6):523-536.

Robbers JE, Tyler VE. Tyler's Herbs of Choice: The Therapeutic Use of Phytomedicinals. New York, NY: The Haworth Herbal Press;1999:69-71.

Rotblatt M, Ziment I. Evidence-Based Herbal Medicine. Philadelphia, Penn:Hanley & Belfus, Inc. 2002:119-123.

Subiza J, Subiza JL, Alonso M, et al. Allergic conjunctivitis to chamomile tea. Ann Allergy. 1990;65(2):127-132.

Subiza J, Subiza JL, Hinojosa M, et al. Anaphylactic reaction after the ingestion of chamomile tea: a study of cross-reactivity with other composite pollens. J Allergy Clin Immunol 1989;84(3):353-358.

Viola H, Wasowski C, Levi de Stein M, et al. Apigenin, a component of Matricaria recutita flowers, is a central benzodiazepine receptors-ligand with anxiolytic effects. Planta Med. 1995;61(3):213-216.


Review Date: April 2002
Reviewed By: Participants in the review process include: Steven Dentali, PhD (April 1999), Senior Director of Botanical Science, Rexall Sundown, Boca Raton, FL; Jacqueline A. Hart, MD, Department of Internal Medicine, Newton-Wellesley Hospital, Harvard University and Senior Medical Editor Integrative Medicine, Boston, MA; Gary Kracoff, RPh (Pediatric Dosing section February 2001), Johnson Drugs, Natick, MA; Steven Ottariono, RPh, Veteran's Administrative Hospital, Londonderry, NH; David Winston, Herbalist (April 1999), Herbalist and Alchemist, Inc., Washington, NJ; Tom Wolfe, P.AHG (April 1999), Smile Herb Shop, College Park, MD. All interaction sections have also been reviewed by a team of experts including Joseph Lamb, MD (July 2000), The Integrative Medicine Works, Alexandria, VA;Enrico Liva, ND, RPh (August 2000), Vital Nutrients, Middletown, CT; Brian T Sanderoff, PD, BS in Pharmacy (March 2000), Clinical Assistant Professor, University of Maryland School of Pharmacy; President, Your Prescription for Health, Owings Mills, MD; R. Lynn Shumake, PD (March 2000), Director, Alternative Medicine Apothecary, Blue Mountain Apothecary & Healing Arts, University of Maryland Medical Center, Glenwood, MD; Ira Zunin, MD, MPH, MBA (July 2000), President and Chairman, Hawaii State Consortium for Integrative Medicine, Honolulu, HI.

Copyright © 2004 A.D.A.M., Inc

The publisher does not accept any responsibility for the accuracy of the information or the consequences arising from the application, use, or misuse of any of the information contained herein, including any injury and/or damage to any person or property as a matter of product liability, negligence, or otherwise. No warranty, expressed or implied, is made in regard to the contents of this material. No claims or endorsements are made for any drugs or compounds currently marketed or in investigative use. This material is not intended as a guide to self-medication. The reader is advised to discuss the information provided here with a doctor, pharmacist, nurse, or other authorized healthcare practitioner and to check product information (including package inserts) regarding dosage, precautions, warnings, interactions, and contraindications before administering any drug, herb, or supplement discussed herein.

 
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  Uses of this Herb
Acne
Common Cold
Eczema
Infantile Colic
Insomnia
Menstrual Pain
Peptic Ulcer
Pharyngitis
Psoriasis
Stress
Ulcerative Colitis
Wounds
  Herbs with Similar Uses
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Summary
Sedatives
Warfarin
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